Bowne St. building blames floods on city

By Alex Robinson

After years of flooding problems and spending tens of thousands of dollars to repair his building’s sewer system, a Flushing building owner says his troubles are the city’s fault.

Frank Deutschmann first started experiencing flooding in the basement of his 70-unit residential building, at 40-04 Bowne St., in spring 2008.

“It’s an ongoing struggle,” he said.

The problem cut tenants off from their laundry room and cost Deutschmann a substantial amount of money to repair the building’s boiler as well as other damages. The flooding also caused headaches for some of the eight businesses that are housed on the first floor of the building.

“We had so much merchandise damaged,” said Soo Kim, who owns a pharmacy in the building. “Even when it was not a lot, we still had to stop what we were doing and get all the employees to clean rather than fill prescriptions.”

Deutschmann said he contacted the city Department of Environmental Protection every time the building flooded. He said DEP took action sometimes to clear the main sewer under Roosevelt Avenue, but many times he was told the problem was with the building’s sewer.

A DEP spokesman said the first calls the agency received about this location came in the summer of 2010.

“DEP’s inspections found a buildup of improperly disposed of grease in the sewer line, which can cause backups,” he said.

The flooding got so bad Deutschmann decided to completely replace the building’s plumbing system in September 2011. This still did not fix the problem.

Deutschmann then had a service clean the new pipe, but when that did not stop the basement flooding he installed additional pumps in the boiler room in the basement and installed roof drains that slowed the flow of rainwater into the sewage system. This, however, did not keep the basement dry.

In December 2012, the flooding climaxed when feces floated through water, which rose half way up the basement walls.

Deutschmann said earlier that month a DEP supervisor had told him the main sewer had been flushed by the agency in both directions. The supervisor insisted the problem was with the building’s line and could probably be explained by tenants using too much oil when cooking.

“The monkey’s on my back and I have feces floating around in the basement here,” Deutschmann said.

Deutschmann then hired a contractor to excavate the area where the building’s sewer meets the sewer main. The contractor found the sewer main, the responsibility of the city, had collapsed and was causing a colossal backup. When DEP was alerted to this, the agency hired a contractor to replace the damaged portion of the main sewer, Deutschmann said.

Since then, Deutschmann has written a letter to DEP to ask to be reimbursed for all the money he spent to fix the problem and has filed a claim with the city comptroller for more than $36,000. He said he has not heard anything back.

He said he has not considered filing a lawsuit against the city.

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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